When you are single, winging a vacation is simple. You can change plans on the fly to suit your mood and explore someplace new with no set agenda. On the other hand, taking a family vacation is a whole other story.
Planning a vacation for the entire family is all about prioritizing and preparing ahead of time. The more family members you have, the more logistics there are to figure out. If you are a project manager by trade this might sound familiar. A family vacation can be a big undertaking, but if you make your ONE Thing planning it like a project manager, you’ll have a better chance of enjoying your time off.
Tip #1 – Hold an Initial Meeting with the Stakeholders
By stakeholders we mean family members. The vacation project manager, which according to a MiniTime survey is mom 90 percent of the time, should gather everyone together for a brainstorming session that will lay the groundwork for the vacation project. Getting each family member’s input to identify the goals of the vacation is the first domino.
This meeting should happen well in advance of the vacation. The same study from MiniTime found that 40 percent of families allotted 3-6 months for vacation planning, but depending on where you want to go you may need to start planning at least a year out.
First discuss what type of vacation everyone would enjoy. An outdoor excursion? Big city adventure? A tropical getaway? Theme park fun? Once everyone comes to a consensus on the type of vacation they would like to take, you can begin narrowing your list of destination options, successfully putting your first domino in place.
Tip #2 – Determine the Budget and Deadlines
As soon as a project manager is handed a job, one of the first tasks that is tackled is budgeting.
Some questions you might want to ask yourself are:
- How much disposable income do you have for the vacation?
- How much will you be able to save each month before the vacation?
- What funds are going to be used?
- How will funds be allocated?
Using your short list of destinations from the initial family vacation meeting, itemize the expenses for each destination. Add in a contingency amount of about 10 percent to give yourself a little extra padding for unexpected expenses. Once you have your preliminary budgets, you can make a final decision on the destination.
The second biggest consideration will now be your deadline – in other words, when you plan to take the vacation. Work, school, weather, availability and budgetary constraints will all come into play. Summers are, of course, a popular time for family vacations, but planning a trip during another season may be more affordable and more relaxing.
All this preparation will result in a budget and deadline that will be the basis for the rest of the family vacation planning.
Tip #3 – Delegate the Work
Trying to do it all on your own is likely to lead to stress and missed deadlines – a far from ideal scenario for work and vacation planning alike. Good project managers have mastered the art of delegation. They know the strengths and weakness of each team member, understand who works well together and what kind of oversight is needed to get the job done.
Delegate vacation tasks to each family member that’s old enough to help out. Be very clear when communicating what is needed and when it is needed. Leave financial matters to yourself or significant other, but get the kids to help with researching information, selecting a list of accommodations within a certain price range, finding fun things to do and preparing for the trip.
This is also the time to decide if outside assistance will be needed during the planning phases. In the Internet age travel agents are less prevalent, but they can still be a serious time saver and might be able to find you a few industry-only deals.
Tip #4 – Set Milestones
Milestones need to be set along the way to keep everything moving forward. These big items include things like purchasing tickets for attractions, getting the vacation shopping done and securing accommodations. Each milestone will be made up of multiple tasks and should have a specific date for completion.
The 411 planner is an excellent resource to use for setting short-term goals that will line up to produce a big vacation.
Tip #5 – Measure Progress
Setting milestones is only effective if you follow up and track the progress that is being made. Schedule family vacation meetings where everyone gets together to discuss what milestones have been met and what still needs to be done. These meetings will give you the chance to make adjustments where needed and keep everyone focused on the ultimate goal.
Taking a project manager approach can be just as fun as doing things informally, and it will definitely be more organized and productive. At the end of the day what matters most is taking the time to focus on your family, which is much easier to do when a vacation is carefully planned out.
How do You Plan for Vacation?
Do you have any tips to share on planning for a vacation? Share them in the comments below!